Apr 18, 2020

Should You Add Delivery or Curbside During the Coronavirus?

With several states issuing stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus pandemic, nonessential small businesses around the world are left wondering how they’ll weather this storm. While many local shops are closing their doors, others are looking for ways to continue operating through the pandemic. 

If you’re a local merchant still open during the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve likely seen sales nosedive as more consumers practice social distancing by shopping online and using delivery or curbside pickup. Curbside pickup and delivery options from brick-and-mortar businesses are nothing new—although COVID-19 is accelerating demand for such offerings.

Forbes recently wrote about the rise of flexible shopping solutions such as buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup. It estimated that 25% of shoppers would opt for curbside pickups from local businesses this year. 

While in-store flexibility is convenient, we also know that consumers like having goods delivered—as evidenced by Amazon’s continued growth. 

Consumers are now expanding beyond the traditional shopping experience as they look for safe and convenient ways to shop while in lockdown. Adding delivery and curbside offerings could be the saving grace that helps your small business through this difficult time.

Let’s take a quick look at how and why small businesses should embrace local delivery and curbside options during and after the coronavirus. 

Why Should You Add Local Delivery and Curbside Services?

Because consumers are being told to stay home, there is incentive for small businesses to add curbside and local delivery options right now. These 2 fulfillment services allow your small business to continue to reach consumers while mitigating the risk of contracting COVID-19—assuming your staff takes additional safety measures.

Offering delivery and curbside options for your customers can not only increase your bottom line immediately, but it might prove to be a viable strategy for driving new and repeat business. 

Consider the local pet store owner who could offer repeat food delivery to surrounding customers’ doorsteps every 3–4 weeks. This service provides an added value to customers now and after the pandemic, while giving the store owner more financial stability.

There are additional benefits for small businesses to set up delivery or curbside pickup for their customers. It allows them to stay competitive against large chains by offering the same delivery services. It allows them to build customer loyalty by offering multiple service types. Finally, delivery allows small businesses to make a bigger mark in the community by employing more people and reaching more customers.  

Best Practices for Local Delivery and Curbside Services

Setting up a delivery service or curbside offering isn’t a one-step process. You will need to create systems and communicate with your employees to make it efficient, safe, and profitable.

Here are a few steps to help:

  1. Set minimums and limits. While you can be more lenient with curbside, you will need to set limits for delivery. You don’t want your employee driving across town to deliver a small coffee. Determine minimum order amounts, distance limits, and other restrictions you need to set for your deliveries. You can also use these limits to create promotions. For example, if you have a $10 delivery fee, you could waive it for orders of more than $50.     
  2. Communicate delivery and curbside instructions to customers. If you’re just starting delivery or curbside, communicating to customers is key. Share your information on social media, send an email newsletter, and add language on your website. Let customers know the requirements and process for ordering curbside or delivery and any restrictions that apply. 
  3. Consider setting up online ordering. If possible, integrate e-commerce functionality on your website. An online ordering form or e-commerce plugin can streamline your orders and keep your employees off the phone. Moreover, a more dynamic website can help you drive more business through local SEO and a better user experience.
  4. Share how you are keeping customers and employees safe. During the pandemic, show how you are protecting the items that your customers order and keeping your employees safe. Describe your sanitation measures and protective steps. This transparency will increase your orders as customers will feel secure when choosing your brand. 
  5. Compensate your employees fairly. If you are asking employees to use their own cars for delivery, compensate them for their mileage along with a flat pay rate and tips. A mileage stipend shouldn’t just cover gas, but it should also include a small amount for insurance and wear. You shouldn’t cover this fully, but a small stipend can go a long way toward showing your appreciation.  
  6. Promote your delivery and curbside service. This service is new, so make sure your customers are looped in. Market your delivery or curbside pickup service and any changes you make to it. 

What Will Delivery and Curbside Services Look Like Post-COVID-19?

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing many small business owners to consider offering delivery and curbside pickup—but what should these businesses do once the lockdowns are lifted?

Demand for convenient shopping services like BOPIS, delivery, curbside, and other flexible options have been on the rise for many years.

Uber Eats, DoorDash, and other food delivery services have become household names as they scaled delivery for local restaurants. Large food chains like Panera Bread and Outback Steakhouse have also entered the food delivery game as they compete to retain profits.

Delivery and curbside aren’t restricted to restaurants. Large retailers like Target and Walmart also offer these services to make it easier and more convenient for shoppers. Amazon has built a business on delivering goods to consumers.

In other words, demand for delivery, curbside, and other flexible options is not going away. 

Small business owners should always look for ways to grow and adapt. Creating a more convenient experience that leverages flexible fulfillment options isn’t just a short-term solution for the coronavirus—it’s a long-term strategy that can increase your customers’ lifetime value.

Seize the Opportunity to Improve Your Shopping Experience

When people think of curbside and delivery, they typically think of the food industry. Uber Eats, Deliverr, Instacart, and Postmates are just a few of the food and grocery delivery apps that are being overrun with orders as the coronavirus has peaked consumer demand for flexible shopping. 

This demand isn’t just for food products. Florists, pet stores, mechanics, and other local merchants can capitalize on the opportunity to reach consumers unlike ever before. Imagine being the only furniture store in town with an easy online ordering system and free local delivery.

Consumers have a lot of free time on their hands right now, and they’re looking for ways to shop without leaving their homes or interacting with the public. 

Now could be an opportunity for small businesses to compete against big names like Amazon. If a customer can order an item from a local store and have it delivered within a few hours, there’s less value in shopping at a large retailer.

Short-term coronavirus delivery could lead to a long-term push to support small businesses. 

Consider the practices above if you want to add a delivery or curbside service to your local business. If you set up a profitable infrastructure now, you may be able to keep up the service after the pandemic passes and grow a larger audience of loyal customers. 

About the author

Derek Miller
Derek Miller
Derek Miller is a writer specializing in entrepreneurship, small business, and digital marketing. His work has featured in sites like Entrepreneur, GoDaddy, Score.org, and StartupCamp. He’s currently the CMO of Smack Apparel, the content guru at Great.com, and a marketing consultant for small businesses.

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